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Friendly rival Colombia an easier foe, claims Scolari

(AFP) – Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari believes the lack of bad blood between his side and Colombia will allow for an attractive spectacle when the two sides clash in their World Cup quarter-final on Friday.

Colombian supporters wait for the start of a Group C football match between Colombia and Greece at the Mineirao Arena in Belo Horizonte during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 14, 2014.   AFP PHOTO / ARIS
Colombian supporters wait for the start of a Group C football match between Colombia and Greece at the Mineirao Arena in Belo Horizonte during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ARIS

Scolari’s men needed penalties after a bruising 120 minutes to overcome Chile in the last 16 which left many of the Brazil squad in tears at the end of the match.

However, the 65-year-old is hoping a less frenetic encounter will allow his players to show their talent in Fortaleza.

“Colombia is a more technical team than Chile,” said Scolari.

“Chile have more strength and play with a spirit which makes the game dynamics very different. The rivalry with Colombia is not the same as with Chile, Argentina or Uruguay.

“It was much more difficult against Chile. Colombia are also a great team with some great players, but when we don’t have these rivalries our players feel more at ease.”

Brazil captain Thiago Silva echoed his coach’s words and welcomed the challenge of stopping Colombia’s free-scoring attack that has netted 11 times in four games.

“For me what is good is a team that comes to play against us and technically Colombia is different in that sense. They have the skills of wanting to play which helps our team,” said the Paris Saint-Germain defender on Thursday.

“It is better to play these games equally than a team that plays very closed at the back. To play in 15 metres is difficult, but when you have 70 or 80 metres there is more room and freedom for our players to play.”

Worried that carrying the expectations of 200 million Brazilians is becoming too much for his squad, Scolari called the team’s sports psychologist Regina Brandao in for an extra session with the players on Tuesday.

And Brazil‘s star man Neymar said the sessions were having the desired effect.

“I had never done anything like it before and I am quite enjoying it,” added the 22-year-old.

“It is not only us, in football, who are surrounded by emotion every day and need psychologists. I think it could do every person good, to make one more relaxed.”

Neymar also insisted he will be fully-fit to face the Colombians despite suffering thigh and knee injuries against Chile.

One of the major concerns for Scolari, though, has been the lack of support for Neymar in attacking areas as he has scored half of his side’s eight goals after four games, whilst other forwards Fred, Jo and Hulk have struggled to make an impact.

Scolari is expected to stick by Fred and Hulk, but will be forced into at least one change from the side that faced Chile as Luis Gustavo is suspended.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Paulinho is the most obvious candidate to replace Gustavo with Manchester City’s Fernandinho dropping into a deeper role in midfield.

However, Scolari admitted he could also switch formation to a 3-5-2 with Napoli’s Henrique joining David Luiz and Silva in central defence.

Gustavo’s absence is even more critical for the hosts given the sensational form of the tournament’s top goalscorer, Colombia’s James Rodriguez.

The Monaco playmaker has taken on the mantle of his side’s focal point with ease in the absence of the injured Radamel Falcao with five goals in four games.

A fourth consecutive win for Jose Pekerman’s men took them into the last eight for the first time and ahead of the biggest game in Colombian football’s history, the Argentine coach insisted the need to keep their feet on the ground.

“For Colombia every game is a new challenge and a step up,” said the Argentine on Thursday.

“Both Brazil and us cannot think about what has gone before.

“We need to play our own game as we have done up to now and try to impose our play on them. The key is not to believe there is a favourite.”

History, though, is against the Colombians as they have only beaten Brazil twice in 25 previous meetings and only once in a competitive fixture at the 1991 Copa America.


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